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Gray Divorce: What You Need to Know

Divorcing Later In Life

The term gray divorce typically refers to divorces where one or both spouses are 50 years old or older. In recent years, the rate of gray divorces has increased significantly. Now, gray divorces are occurring at the highest rate compared to all other age groups. With this increase in later-in-life divorces come new and different challenges. And there are several things those divorcing over 50 should consider as they consider their impending divorce.

Unique Factors of Gray Divorce

Many couples who divorce later in life have been together for a long time. Many gray divorce cases feature couples who have been married 20 years or more. Consequently, they tend to have more complicated estates. Furthermore, those divorcing after 50 are likely to be approaching or have already reached their retirement, further complicating their divorce.

Factors that can make a gray divorce more complicated include:

  • Limited income opportunities and potential
  • Health insurance that is connected to a spouse’s pension
  • Physical and mental health issues, including conditions like dementia
  • Dependent minor or adult children, grandchildren, or other relatives

Going through a divorce is difficult enough, but it can become more complicated as you approach and enter retirement. Below we review a few common issues associated with a gray divorce and how an experienced attorney can help you.

Preserving Your Estate Plan

Over the years, you and your spouse have likely developed an estate plan to help you through your retirement and which preserves your estate for your heirs. Common estate planning documents many couples establish include wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. However, when you decide to divorce, these estate plans may need to be reassessed and updated.

Common changes that need to be changed to your estate plan:

  • Removing a spouse as an executor of your estate
  • Removing a spouse as your agent in a power of attorney
  • Removing a spouse as a beneficiary of a trust or other accounts

If you need to make changes to your estate plan to reflect your divorce, it is recommended that you deal with it sooner rather than later. Though it can be tempting to put it off until after your divorce, we recommend you begin speaking with one of our attorneys about your estate plan now, even if your divorce is still in process. This is the surest way to protect your estate and prepare for your new future post-divorce.

Understand Your Financial Future

As previously mentioned, divorcing after 50 has different financial implications than divorcing in your 20s or 30s. Whether you’re on a fixed income now or expect to be soon, you will need to have a clear understanding of what your financial future will look like post-divorce. Retirement accounts and investment accounts are typically treated as marital property and will be divided during the property division process. Though this may provide you with some security, it’s important also to remember that establishing your own household, separate from your spouse, will be more expensive than it was when you lived together. If possible, we recommend meeting with a financial advisor or accountant to help determine what your financial future will look like post-divorce.

Your Social Life May Change Dramatically

Another thing to be aware of are the social implications of a late-in-life divorce. With spouses who have been together for many years, their social circles tend to be very intertwined. After a divorce, it can be challenging to maintain the same social relationships. As you build your new life, this change in your social circumstances can put an emotional strain on you. Being prepared for your social circle to change can help you manage your expectations of the divorce process and beyond.

If you are over 50 and are considering divorce, reach out to May, Rammell & Wells. We understand the unique challenges you face, and we are here to help. From providing strong legal guidance to helping you negotiate a difficult property division settlement, we are here to support you.


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